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The Ugly Side of Mistletoe

Some people not so merry about what it does to trees

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 25, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Many of us like to kiss under the mistletoe. But some people want to kiss it goodbye.

Mistletoe is a sap-sucking parasite that affects the health of trees and sometimes kills them. It grows into trees and draws water and minerals out of the trees. However, while arborists detest mistletoe, the plant is hard to kill without damaging the host tree.

Now, a researcher at the Texas Agricultural Research Station says he may be closer to finding a way to deal with mistletoe.

Todd Watson, an urban forest researcher, has completed the first year of a two-year study aimed at eliminating mistletoe from urban settings. He's had promising results with at least one new treatment -- a plant hormone.

In his research so far, Watson tested different treatments on groups of elm trees on the Texas A&M University campus. The treatments included: pruning out the mistletoe; pruning mistletoe-infested branches; chemical treatment; covering the mistletoe with dark caulking; a glyphosate spray; application of 2-4D herbicide; and treatment with a specific plant hormone.

The aim of the testing was to find treatments that provided at least 90 percent control in the 25 mistletoe plants treated in each group of trees. The plant hormones offered better than 90 percent control.

The study will continue for another year, with variation on the testing of the different treatments. That includes new formulations to improve the effectiveness of the plant hormones.

More information

The University of California has more about mistletoe.

SOURCE: Texas A&M University, news release, December 2002
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